Knowing where to ice fish is important. Not every frozen puddle offers fishing opportunities. Montana has many great ice fishing hotspots. Ice facilitates fishing access. Think of it as a poor man’s fishing boat.
You still need to know where to go once on the ice. This requires trial and error and time. Once you learn the hotspots, mark them in your GPS. This will get you started, but…rarely do I find fish in the exact same locations from trip to trip.
The list of destinations below is not exhaustive. There are many community ponds and other more secluded lakes that are accessible. Some areas require a snowmobile or a long hike to access. Not all lakes have plowed roads.
Here are some lakes to add to your bucket list!
- Brown’s Lake: Located 11 km south-east of Ovando, this state fishing spot has become a weekend destination for ice fishermen. The lake attracts anglers from across the state and generally produces very good 1- to 3-pound rainbow trout – with the occasional report of brown or brook trout.
- Canyon Ferry Reservoir: Located 20 miles east of Helena and just west of Townsend, Canyon Ferry offers anglers a perfect haven. The water is home to a variety of fish including rainbow trout, yellow bass, walleye, the occasional ling and more.
- Clark Canyon Reservoir: Clark Canyon Reservoir is the location of Camp Fortunate, the place where Lewis and Clark met the Lemhi-Shoshoni tribe. The reservoir covers almost 5,000 acres, serves as the headwaters of the Beaverhead River and is 20 miles southwest of Dillon. Popular for its fantastic ice fishing, you will find an abundance of trout in these waters as well as a variety of other species.
- Georgetown Lake: Georgetown Lake is one of the most scenic lakes in southwest Montana. Located 18 miles west of Anaconda, this is a popular year-round destination for Montana’s outdoor enthusiasts. Because the lake is relatively shallow, ice formation and fishing generally begins earlier than many other Montana lakes. Ice anglers tend to focus on either salmon or trout in Georgetown.
- Harrison Lake: Home to a variety of trout, this state fishing access is tucked away 5 miles northeast of Harrison. Relatively small and off the beaten path, this lake is fed by the Blackfoot River and is a premier ice fishing destination.
- Hauser lake: 7 miles north of Helena, a 3,200-acre reservoir on the Missouri River produces rainbow and brown trout, as well as bass, walleye and even Kokanee salmon.
- Helena Valley Reservoir: Just 8 miles northeast of Helena is the Helena Valley Reservoir. This water is known for hosting both bass and Kokanee salmon, but salmon fishing can be slow depending on the time of year and temperatures.
- Holtersee: A 45 minute drive north of Helena brings you to Holter Lake, a local fishing hotspot. This lake is home to Kokanee salmon, trout and walleye; In winter, however, perch are the most popular target on this water.
- Ruby Reservoir: 12 miles west of Virginia City, Ruby Reservoir is stocked with various species of trout and is a popular fishing destination in southwest Montana.
- Willow Creek Reservoir: Willow Creek Reservoir is one of the most popular fisheries in the Sun Drainage. Every year 70,000 young rainbow trout are used to maintain the region’s fish population. With a stocked lake, your ice fishing adventure is sure to be a success.
You can also join the great site Ice Shanty.com. This free site has information on all ice fishing spots in the country. You can also visit the forum and interact with other Icemen, including Montana Grant.
The thing about Icemen is we don’t fish for snobs, like fly fishermen and other selfish anglers we’ve all met. Most winter tourists are here for skiing, not fishing. I have yet to meet a rude and greedy one ice cream man. They are always ready to teach, help and share. That’s how they learned it.
You have to be tough to travel on the ice. Transporting gear and yourself on slick ice and deep snow is difficult. Drill and chill It’s fun, but requires work and passion. Cutting holes is more difficult. Sitting in the cold is the hardest part! Icemen are not wimps!
It’s just addicting to pull a big fish through a small hole. I rarely keep fish except during ice season. Fresh fillets are a tasty winter treat.
Catch a big one!